The Total Futility Of Trying To Save The Planet By Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

In trendy progressive states here in the U.S., we know how we are going to solve “climate change.” We are going to slash our “greenhouse gas” emissions. Here in New York City, we’re going to reduce our GHG emissions by 80% by 2050. If you don’t believe it, you can just ask Mayor de Blasio. New York State? Same goal, 80% by 2050. California also has a goal of reducing GHG emissions 80% by 2050. Surely, this will solve the problem.

New York and California seem to think that they are big stuff in the world. After all, who is more important than we wealthy coastal U.S. elites? But unfortunately, on a global scale, we don’t really have enough population to count for much. As usual, when it’s time to do the arithmetic, the progressives fall on their faces. Let’s look at some numbers.

New York State has a population of about 20 million. California has about twice that population, 40 million. For comparison, the country of India has a population of about 1.4 billion — about 23 times the combined total of New York and California.

For greenhouse gas emissions, the latest number I find for New York come from 2015, with a total of 218.14 million tons of CO2 equivalent. With twice the population, California as you would expect has about twice the emissions, about 430 MMtCO2e in 2016 per this chart from Grist. For comparison, India’s emissions were about 2.4 billion tons of CO2 equivalent, or close to 4 times the combined total of New York and California. And India is still relatively early in the process of industrializing and building out its electrical grid.

New York and California have supposedly launched into the process of trying to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Check out that excited article at Grist:

California’s carbon emissions are back to ’90s levels. It can be done, people!

Here’s their chart:


OK then, in the ten years from 2007 to 2016, it looks like they reduced their GHG emissions from about 480 MMtCO2e to about 430, a reduction of just over 10%. Dare we check on what is happening in India? Here’s a great article from World Coal (great source!) on February 20, title “The role of coal in India’s energy ambitions.” Excerpts:

[T]he country’s energy demand is projected to more than double through to 2040. By then, India’s energy demand will be half that of China, up from less than 30% in 2017, and its share of global demand will rise to 11% from 5% in 2016. . . . [A]s the Modi government strives to ensure universal electricity access by the early 2020s, India’s power system will need to almost quadruple its size by 2040, and investments up to US$2 trillion will be required to keep pace with increasing demand. . . . Large-scale power generation will be at the heart of India’s strategy to electrification, with coal-fired power output forecast to almost double by 2040. 

Coal currently provides about 75% of India’s power. A good estimate is that India’s GHG emissions will be going from about 2.4 billion tons CO2 equivalent now, to at least double that by 2040: 4.8 billion tons CO2 equivalent. In other words, the increase in emissions from India alone (2.4 BtCO2e) would be close to 5 times the decreases which New York and California might achieve if they achieved their grandiose 80% reductions — which they won’t.

And then there’s China. And Africa.